IU South Bend to Purchase Engman Natatorium
Indiana University South Bend announced today it will purchase the former Engman Public Natatorium at 1040 West Washington Street in South Bend where the home of the Civil Rights Heritage Center (CRHC) will remain. The university is exercising the option to buy that was included in the lease agreement with the South Bend Heritage Foundation which saved and owns the historic property.
IU South Bend has been leasing the facility since it was renovated and re-opened in 2010. Completion of the purchase of the Natatorium is expected by the end of January. “This purchase allows us to expand programs that advance our educational mission in this region while solidifying our commitment to deep engagement with the entire South Bend community regarding civil rights and social justice issues, “ said Dr. Susan Elrod, Chancellor of Indiana University South Bend.
The Engman Natatorium is one of the last remaining symbols of the civil rights struggle in South Bend. When it opened July 3, 1922, it was the largest public swimming pool in the state, however, African-Americans were prohibited from swimming there. After a legal battle in 1937, African-Americans were allowed in on a segregated basis once a week. In 1950, the Natatorium was finally fully desegregated. In 1978, the building was closed and went into disrepair. In a unique partnership between the City of South Bend, the South Bend Heritage Foundation, IU South Bend, and local benefactors, the facility was renovated and re-opened in May of 2010 as the home of the CRHC. “The revitalization of The Natatorium- Civil Rights Heritage Center demonstrates how a community and university working collaboratively can turn a past injustice into a new justice for everyone… we turned a wrong into a right. We are so proud of this commitment,” stated Ms. Gladys Muhammad, Associate Director South Bend Heritage Foundation, Inc.
The purchase of the Natatorium coincides with the announcement that Dr. Darryl Heller will return as director of the CRHC in January. Dr. Heller previously served as the director from 2015 to 2018.